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Nature could be antidote to anxiety, blood pressure medications, study says

Nature could be the antidote to taking anxiety and blood pressure medications, according to a new study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. File photo by JuergenPM/Pixabay
Nature could be the antidote to taking anxiety and blood pressure medications, according to a new study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. File photo by JuergenPM/Pixabay

Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Spending time outside with trees, water and everything else nature has to offer, may reduce the need for anxiety drugs and other medications, according to a new study.

Researchers found enjoying nature up to four times a week reduced the odds of using mental health medications by 33%, according to the study published Monday in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

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The study found spending time in green spaces, which include forests and gardens, as well as blue spaces, which include lakes and oceans, also cut the odds of using blood pressure pills by 36% and asthma medications by 26%.

Researchers interviewed approximately 6,000 people who live in large cities in Finland about their access and use of green and blue spaces that include parks, zoos, rivers and lakes. It also asked whether they enjoy views of nature from their homes.

Respondents were asked how often they spend time or exercised outdoors, and where. The study also took into account other variables, such as traffic-related outdoor air pollution and noise. Respondents were then asked about their use of medications for anxiety, asthma, depression, high blood pressure or insomnia.

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"Physical activity is thought to be the key mediating factor in the health benefits of green spaces when availability or active use of green space are considered," study coauthor Ann Turunen, a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, said in a statement.

"The analysis can reveal key associations, but we can't say for certain whether it was the greenspace proximity or use that led to reduced use of medications," said Lincoln Larson, an associate professor in the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University.

"Perhaps people who were healthier to begin with were more likely to get outdoors in the first place," Larson added.

While the study warned some of the evidence is inconsistent, it found overall "exposure to natural environments is thought to be beneficial for human health."

"Frequent green space visits, but not the amounts of residential green or blue spaces, or green and blue views from home, were associated with less frequent use of psychotropic, antihypertensive and asthma medication in urban environments," the study concluded.

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